Miriam Ezenwa, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN, FAAN is an associate professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing Science.
Ezenwa’s research interests are in health disparities for pain management, particularly in patients with chronic illnesses such as sickle cell disease (SCD) or cancer, which involve frequent episodes of severe pain and the use of non-drug therapies, such as guided relaxation, to manage pain.
What drew you to sickle cell research?
After earning my PhD in nursing, I learned about a NIH/NHLBI opportunity called the Basic and Translational Research Scholars Program geared toward training scientists to become experts in sickle cell disease research. I became a sickle cell scholar and participated in the program for two years, which served as my postdoctoral training.
I was excited for the opportunity because the image of a neighborhood teenage boy and neighbor who died of sickle cell disease when I was a teenager myself is etched in my brain to this day. He was very likable and kind, but sickle cell disease robbed him of the joy of life and brought him so much suffering that was palpable to me as a child. Whenever I think about this teenage boy, it stokes my desire to learn more about a disease that currently torture over five million individuals in my home country, Nigeria, so I can give back through my research findings that can be used by my people.
What excites you about conducting research at the College of Nursing?
The opportunity to collaborate with a diverse team of research experts at the college Palliative Care Center, as well as the clinicians and staff at UF Health/Shands hospital. This collaboration is instrumental to my continuous growth as a researcher and principal investigator as I implement my NIH funded grants. I also enjoy the support of the Office of Research Support staff, whose support is invaluable to submit these grants and manage the post award administrative process.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I am an avid dancer in worship of God and I pray incessantly. This practice serves two purposes for me. Dancing is a way to stay physically healthy. As an academic nurse researcher, I sit a lot for meetings, webinars and conferences. I believe that through dancing, I can prevent deep vein thrombosis and other ailments caused by physical inactivity. Second, the act of dancing releases endorphins, a natural pain reliever and feel good medicine, which helps me to manage stress in my daily life.
For me, it’s a win-win situation. As a child, I intended to become a Catholic nun. However, I maintain my spirit of service to God through worship since I could not serve him as a nun.